Common Cold (cont.)
Steven Doerr, MD
Steven Doerr, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Doerr received his undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated with his Medical Degree from the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado in 1998 and completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine from Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado in 2002, where he also served as Chief Resident.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Common cold facts
- What is the common cold, and what causes it?
- How is the common cold transmitted?
- What are risk factors for acquiring the common cold?
- What are the symptoms and signs of the common cold in adults, children, and infants? What is the incubation period of the common cold?
- Does it have anything to do with exposure to cold weather?
- What is the difference between the common cold and influenza (the flu)?
- How do physicians diagnose the common cold?
- What is the treatment for the common cold? Are there any home remedies for the common cold?
- Are antibiotics a suitable treatment for the common cold?
- When should a health-care professional be consulted?
- What is the prognosis for the common cold? What is the duration of the common cold?
- What are complications of the common cold?
- Is it possible to prevent the common cold?
- Common Cold FAQs
- Find a local Family Physician in your town
Are antibiotics a suitable treatment for the common cold?
No. Antibiotics play no role in treating the common cold. Antibiotics are effective only against illnesses caused by bacteria, and colds are caused by viruses. Not only do antibiotics not help, but they can rarely also cause severe allergic reactions that can sometimes be fatal. Furthermore, using antibiotics when they are not necessary has led to the growth of several strains of common bacteria that have become resistant to certain antibiotics. For these and other reasons, it is important to limit the use of antibiotics to situations in which they are medically indicated.
Occasionally, a bacterial infection such as sinusitis or a middle ear infection can develop following the common cold, however, the decision to treat with antibiotics should be determined by a physician or health-care professional after a medical evaluation.
When should a health-care professional be consulted?
Generally, the common cold can be treated at home and managed with over-the-counter medications. However, if more severe symptoms develop, such as shaking chills, high fever (greater than 102 F), severe headache, neck stiffness, vomiting, abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, chest pain, confusion, or failure to improve after 10 days, consult a health-care professional immediately. Infants 3 months of age or younger who develop a cold or fever should be seen by their health-care professional as well.
If a sore throat and a fever are present with no other cold symptoms, the individual should also be evaluated by a health-care professional. This illness may be strep throat, a bacterial infection requiring treatment with antibiotics.
Finally, if there is facial pain or swelling associated with yellow/green drainage from the nose accompanied by a fever, it is possible that the individual has a sinus infection (sinusitis) that would benefit from a medical evaluation and a possible course of antibiotics.
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